04/Fri/11 - 09:50 Filed in: Electrics | Prep Tools
It took me awhile to appreciate the need for an Immersion Blender. These handy devices are also known as Stick Blenders or Hand Blenders. After all I already owned a very good Braun Blender and a Cuisinart Food Processor, what would an Immersion Blender do for me? Not having a concrete answer for this question is what kept me from getting an Immersion blender for years. This year I finally took the plunge and used some Christmas money to buy one in January. This also corresponded to when I started making a lot of soups or stews. Now that I’ve owned one for a while I wouldn’t want to be without it. This blog will cover my selection process and what I’ve learned using my Immersion Blender.
In looking at tests of Immersion Blenders, it seemed to come down to 3 models at 3 different price points. There was a relative newcomer made by Kalorik, the Sunny Morning Stick Mixer, which lists for 39.99 and retails for around $29.99. This low priced model actually won the last Cook’s Illustrated Immersion Blender face off in 2010, besting the former champion the Kitchen Aid KHB-100. The Kitchen Aid model lists for $69.00 and sells for around $49.99. The last model is the CSB-77 from Cuisinart which retails for around $49.99. I opted for the Kitchen Aid model for several reasons. It has been around for many years and most folks consider it to be very reliable. Up until this last test, it had been Cook’s Illustrated’s choice for best immersion blender. The Kaloric model is relatively new and I was was concerned that at half the price, it may not have the reliability of the Kitchen Aid. It may, but it was too soon to know. Another concern for me was the plastic head this model used. While being plastic allows you to place the immersion blender in a non-stick pan, I wasn’t so sure how the plastic would hold up to immersion in a hot pan. I also saw some reports of this unit getting quite hot quite very quickly, during use and this was a bit of a concern for me. I never even seriously considered the Cuisinart model. Frankly I think they made a great food processor back in the day. I bought my Cusinart food processor back in 1980 and it is still going strong 30 plus years later. Lately they seem to be making every type of kitchen product out there. I’ve had person experience with their hand knives and electric knives. I was underwhelmed with the hand knives and the electric knife has some good features, but it is not the most reliable unit out there. My first version of the knife burned out in less than 2 years and the second unit heats up very quickly and trips a thermal safety of some sort. I would not buy another Cuisnart product unless it was the only one out there at a particular price point.
When I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy the Kitchen Aid Immersion Blender I found they only carried it on their web site (a fact not mentioned anywhere I could see) or the store could order it for me. Personally I considered this lack of information on the website to be bad customer service. I looked up where else I could buy it on my iPhone and to my surprise Target had the model I wanted and it was on sale for $15.00 off. When I got to the store and was at the register, there was another markdown that brought the price down to $29.99. This was the price of the Kaloric model and I felt much better about buying the Kitchen Aid model at the same price.
Kitchen Aid has a reputation for reliability, although these days there electrics are made in China too. This model, the KHB-100, usually comes in at or near the top of the list of best Immersion Blenders so I felt it was a good choice. I liked the detachable base with a stainless steel head. Actually the stainless steel head is a mixed blessing. You can use it in hot liquids and it is easy to clean - both plusses, the down side is you can’t use it in a non-stick pan where the metal head would scratch the non-stick coating. This model had 9 speeds, but I’ve very quickly found you tend to use the highest and the lowest speeds and nothing in between. The power cord is 5’ long which is great if you want to blend something in a pot that is on the stove. This unit should reach most any stove easily. There is a fancier model, the KHB-300 which is the same base unit, but it comes with several additional blades and accessories. The only one that seemed remotely interesting was the whisk blade. But my Kitchen Aid hand mixer has a similar blade and therefor I really had no use for the accessories. The one accessory the KHB-100 does come with is a tall plastic cup with vertical sides. It is used to help keep all of the food in close proximity to the head of the blender. You plunge the blender up and down in the cup to blend items as opposed to in a big pan where you have to swirl the food items around.
As for why I like my new Immersion Blender, the main reasons come down to ease of use and ease of cleanup. In terms of ease of use, you are generally bringing the Immersion Blender to where you need to use it. This is the opposite of a Blender or Food Processor, where you need to put the appliance on the counter and bring the food to it. If I am using a non-stick pan, I pour the liquid into a suitable sized stainless steel bowl. You generally want to use something with high sides to help contain any splashes. Also be sure to have the head submerged before you fire up the Immersion Blender. Now if you are using a non-stick pan, such as my Dutch Oven, it gets even easier. You use the Immersion Blender right in the pan. Often I am able to hold the blender in place in the middle of the Dutch Oven and the vortex caused by the spinning blades is powerful enough to draw the liquid in from the perimeter of the pan. Sometimes you will need to swirl the head around in the pan to finish blending all of the ingredients. I typically swirl a fork around the Dutch Oven to see if there are any areas with unblended ingredients. One of the nice things about the Immersion Blender vs. a Blender or Food Processor is you can blend the whole soup or stew at once. With the other two devices you may have to do things in multiple batches. Another thing I like my new Immersion Blender for is making an Aalton Brown Cranberry Dipping Sauce recipe. The hot sauce is poured into a blender and pureed. There is some sort of reaction that happens where you get this blast of hot air when you turn on the blender. It actually can blow the top off the blender unless you aren’t really holding it down tightly. You get hot, sticky, cranberry sauce everywhere. Don’t ask me how I know this. With the Immersion Blender you are working in an open topped container, so there is no build up of gasses. Making a pesto is a bit of a mixed bag. While the end results are about as good as I get with my Food Processor, getting there isn’t quite as much fun. You use the cup for the pesto and it is a bit of a juggling act holding the Immersion Blender and cup all while drizzling in the olive oil.
I think where I appreciate the Immersion Blender the most, is when it comes to clean up. When you are done you simple detach the head from the motor end of the unit. The stainless steel blade and shaft come clean with some hot running water. I usually rinse it with hot running water first, then clean it with some dish soap on a paper towel followed by another rinse in hot water. I usually takes less time to do this, than it actually did to describe it here. I haven’t had to do a more serious cleaning, but some folks put some soapy water in the blending cup and run the Immersion Blender to clean. Both the Immersion Blender blending head and the blending cup are dishwasher safe so that is another clean up option. Contrast this simple cleanup to cleaning a Blender or Food Processor. My Food Processor has 5 parts to clean that take up over half of the top rack of the dishwasher. My Blender also has 5 parts including the glass bowl which is tall and hard to place in the dishwasher. There are only two spots it will even fit. With the Immersion Blender it is quick to set up, quick to use and extremely quick to clean up. Now while I am not going to throw out my Blender or Food Processor any time soon, they will get far less use.
It took me a long time to get around to buying an Immersion Blender. Now that I own one it took very little time to realize just how convenient and useful the really are. Frankly I am kicking myself for not buying one sooner.
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